New Washington state law adds heavy-haul corridor; HOS changes die

| 4/7/2008

A new law in Washington state allows large trucks to use a stretch of roadway in the northern portion of the state that was previously off-limits. Another bill died that sought to make changes to hours-of-service rules.

After winning unanimous support in the state’s Senate and House, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed SB6857 into law, opening up a four-mile stretch of state Route 97 to large trucks.

The new law authorizes the Washington State Department of Transportation to designate the portion of roadway from the Canadian border to the city of Oroville as a heavy-haul industrial corridor. Sponsored by Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, the designation in the bill would allow overweight vehicles to be transported along the stretch of roadway.

The heavy-haul distinction would authorize WSDOT to issue special permits to overweight vehicles operating in the corridor up to a gross vehicle weight of 137,788 pounds. Special permits would cost $100 each month, or $1,000 annually.

A separate bill of interest to truck drivers has been sidelined. The measure required the State Patrol to adopt and enforce federal rules regarding hours of service on intrastate and interstate trucking operations. The agency would have been required to update the rules on a quarterly basis.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, the bill – HB2865 – remained in the House Transportation Committee at a deadline to advance to the chamber floor, effectively killing it for the year.

The bill was intended to ensure the state rules are the same as federal regulations. State and local law enforcement officials would have been responsible for enforcing the rules on motor carriers and truckers.

The base fine for an HOS violation during roadside inspections would have increased from $64 to $550. Fines could not have been reduced or eliminated.

Terminal audit penalties would have increased from $100, per occurrence, to as much as $550 for each day the violation continues, up to as much as $5,550. The motor carrier’s safety rating also could have been lowered.

Motor carriers who knowingly and willfully allow or require HOS violations could have had federal penalties brought against them. The same rule would have applied to truck drivers who violate the HOS rules.

According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, there were 5,916 HOS violations in 2007. It is estimated that in fiscal year 2009 the state would receive a total increase in revenue of $1.6 billion. In fiscal year 2010 and subsequent years, the projected total increase in revenue is $2.8 billion annually.

The effort can be brought back up for consideration during the 2009 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor